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History - City of Cullman

Cullman's History

- June 12, 1877, Article from The New York Times About Cullman -

Founder, Col. John G. Cullmann

Cullman was founded in 1873 by Colonel John Gottfried Cullmann, a German refugee who came to America in 1866. Col. Cullmann was forced to flee his country bankrupt and penniless after becoming involved in a revolution. He made his way to America by working on a freight boat and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio where he worked as a clerk in a bookstore.

While working at the bookstore, he began formulating ideas of a special colony of working people, specifically a place for immigrants from countries such as his native Germany. In 1869, he began reading about the vast unsettled lands in the South. Reconstruction had begun and the South was to become the place in which John G. Cullmann could realize his dream of a thriving German immigrant colony.

Exploring North Alabama
Early in 1871, Cullmann finally bought passage on a boat to Florence, one of the most cultured cities of Alabama at that time. He met with Governor Patton and presented his idea.

The Governor furnished men and horses for him to explore available lands in North Alabama. Cullmann lived at Florence and Tuscumbia during the explorations, trying to interest many financiers to help him buy land. He was not successful. The Southern people, depressed by tyranny and persecution, were not optimistic about the future and did not like the idea of immigrants moving into their communities.

But Cullmann did not give up on his dream!

Purchase of Land from L & N Railroad
John Cullmann, at the age of 48, finally met with Lewis Fink, the land agent for the great North-South Railroad (later the L&N Railroad) which had just built a line through the wilderness from Decatur to Montgomery, Alabama.

After a careful survey, he contracted with the L&N Railroad for 349,000 acres. The only stipulation laid down by the company was that Cullmann pay for all advertising of the land and other expenses incurred in bringing the desired immigrants to the area.

During his tour of this land, Cullmann found the area to be perfect for the establishment of his dream colony. The land extended from Decatur to Montgomery, fifteen miles on each side of the railroad.

Advertising for Settlers

Once Cullmann had found the perfect place for his new colony he boarded a train for the North and started advertising for immigrants. His ads appeared in newspapers all over America and even in Europe. However, he had some difficulty in encouraging the move southward at a time when people were moving westward.

Col. Cullmann and his son, Otto, published the Der Nord Alabama Colonist (The North Alabama Colonist), to encourage other Germans to make the move to North Alabama.

On January 5, 1873, Cullmann succeeded in interesting fifteen Cincinnati families in the idea of colonizing in the South.

First Families Settle
In April of 1873, the first five families came by train to the spot where Cullman now stands. Each was allotted a plot of ground. Soon they built their log homes, enclosed them with a forklike fence, and cleared small plots of round for planting against the coming winter.

For the necessities that could not be grown in such a short period, Cullmann made several trips northward. On each trip, he brought back more families to help his colony grow.

Incorporation of the City of Cullman
The colony grew and, even though John Cullmann and his first settlers were American citizens, many Germans began to move into the settlement. In the middle of 1874, an election was held to incorporate the town. With 30 votes cast, there were 23 for incorporation and 7 against.

It was also decided that the town was to be called "Cullman" after its founder but with only one "n". Shortly after the incorporation of the town in July of 1874, officials of the town were elected. John Cullmann refused to hold public office.

Creation of Cullman County
Growth of the community during the years that followed was steady and far above the expectations of John Cullmann. News of the great opportunities in Cullman spread afar and Cullmann even made a trip to Europe to establish agents for the purpose of getting more settlers to come to North Alabama.

By 1877 the settlement had enough population to become a county. At that time, the Cullman area was a part of Blount, Winston, Morgan and Walker counties. A movement was started in 1876 to create a new county, but the idea met with much opposition by people of the other counties. In that day an area was required to have a population of more than 9,500 before it could be considered for the creation of a new county.

After the 1876 census it was found that the requirement could be met and action was started. A bill was introduced in the Alabama State Legislature in March, 1876 by a senator from Blount County, but was defeated by the senator after it met with opposition of his home county. The bill was re-introduced by a Blount County Representative in February of 1877. It passed the House and, despite opposition, passed the Senate. Governor George S. Huston signed the bill.

Growth of Cullman

John Cullmann was instrumental in the growth of his colony for the next 20 years. He would bring in a group of settlers, sell them land, and use this money to send back to Germany for more settlers. Between 1871 and 1895, Cullmann brought more than 100,000 immigrants to the South from Europe and other parts of America. Cullmann had very little cooperation by the State of Alabama, however, and even met with serious physical violence on one occasion.

History of Cullman
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